Hoggard aims to take his chance after Flintoff injury

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The Independent Online

Matthew Hoggard and James Anderson were the chief beneficiaries when Andrew Flintoff informed the England selectors he was unavailable for selection for Thursday's first Test against New Zealand. The selectors have dodged stating whether Flintoff would have been picked for Lord's but it is believed the all-rounder was told he was in the 12-man squad prior to straining his left side on Friday during Lancashire's Championship victory over Durham.

If this was the case Flintoff would have played ahead of Hoggard and Anderson, both of whom were named yesterday. Anderson is the favourite to play on Thursday but the selection of Hoggard shows he is still very much in the selectors' thoughts.

There is never a good time to be injured, and Flintoff will be disappointed not to make his long-awaited return, but the timing of it was fortunate for the selectors. Bowlers are more prone to these injuries when they have been out for a long time, and Flintoff could have sustained the problem during the Test. Then the selectors would have been criticised for bringing him back too early.

Paul Collingwood was named in a squad that will not only play at Lord's, but in the second Test at Old Trafford, too. Collingwood's right shoulder and back are responding to treatment and he is expected to play. England will call for cover if it is needed.

Hoggard was dropped by England during the tour of New Zealand and he was delighted to be named. "I was hoping to get back into the squad because I thought I'd done enough to get back in and make sure I stayed in – if I hadn't been in the squad I'd have thought that could have been the end of me," admitted Hoggard.

"There are two ways to react to it [losing your place]. You either accept it, roll over and die or you fight for your place. I didn't feel like rolling over and dying so I've been fighting for my place. I worked hard in New Zealand and I've been working hard since I've been back in England and hopefully I've put in the right amount of work and had the right attitude to show them that I still want to play for England. I'm desperate to play for England and I want to put the three lions on when I get to Lord's.

"There's a long way to go but obviously I'm very happy about being included but the 11 who played in the last Test in New Zealand finished with two winning Tests so I need to keep knocking on the door because they're in the driving seat at the moment.

"I am quite capable of starting at Lord's if you look at my record, but they are the men in possession. Jimmy's bowling really well, he's just got a five-for against Durham and the other lads I played against at Headingley, they're bowling well. It's up to the selectors but it's good for English cricket that there's all these people vying for not so many places."

The national selector Geoff Miller, was understandably sympathetic to Flintoff's situation. "I really feel for Andrew," Miller said. "He's done everything he possibly could during the winter to get fit following his foot problem. We gave him all the time he needed, and he worked tremendously hard with the medical staff. He was getting himself just about right.

"Of course he'd have swapped one or two of his wickets for runs, we'll accept that. But he's been brilliant and this couldn't have come at a worse time. But he's strong, with a strong will and he's passionate to play, and I'm sure he'll be back as soon as he possibly can. I don't know when he'll be back, we leave that to the medical staff but Andrew will know when he's ready."

First Test squad and fixtures

M P Vaughan (Yorkshire, capt), A N Cook (Essex), A J Strauss (Middlesex), K P Pietersen (Hampshire), I R Bell (Warwickshire), P D Collingwood (Durham), T R Ambrose (Warwickshire, wkt), S C J Broad (Nottinghamshire), R J Sidebottom (Nottinghamshire), M S Panesar (Northamptonshire), J M Anderson (Lancashire), M J Hoggard (Yorkshire).

15-19 May first Test, Lord's. 23-27 May second Test, Old Trafford. 5-9 June third Test, Trent Bridge. 13 June Twenty20, Old Trafford. 15 June first ODI, Riverside. 18 second ODI, Edgbaston. 21 third ODI, Bristol. 25 fourth ODI, The Oval. 28 5th ODI, Lord's.